A $64 million runway for no one in Alaska?
The route a hovercraft would take between the village of Akutan and the runway on Akun Island.
September 28th, 2011
12:56 PM ET

A $64 million runway for no one in Alaska?

Remember Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere," a $400 million span that was supposed to connect Ketchikan to its airport on sparsely inhabited Gravina Island? The project gained infamy in 2005 as a waste of taxpayer dollars and the funds earmarked for it were withheld. The 8,000 residents of Ketchikan continue to be connected to their airport by ferry.

Fast forward six years and another remote Alaskan airport project is raising questions about how the government spends money.

The price this time is $77 million and the place is Akutan, a remote island village in the Aleutian chain, according to a report from the Alaska Dispatch.

By next winter Akutan is scheduled to have a 4,500-foot-long runway, built at a cost of $64 million ($59 million in federal and $5 million state funds), the Dispatch reports. The problem is, the runway is on Akun Island, 6 miles from the village across the treacherous waters of the Bering Sea. Plying those waters can be tricky with seas over 6 feet and winds above 30 mph.

Original plans called for using a hovercraft - at a cost of $11 million - to ferry passengers from Akutan to Akun. But, the Dispatch points out, the same model hovercraft planned for the route has proven unreliable under similar conditions elsewhere in Alaska. And when it did run, operating losses were in the millions.

Now, transportation officials are considering using a helicopter to ferry passengers from Akutan, according to the Dispatch report. Cost of that is still being determined.

Should officials get it all figured out and funded, who'll benefit? Akutan has a year-round population of 100, but that spikes to about 1,000 in the summer when Trident Seafoods processing plant, the largest seafood processing plant in North America, is in operation, the Dispatch reports. Trident is contributing $1 million to the project, the Dispatch says.

And why is this necessary? Air service to Akutan is now provided by World War II-era amphibious aircraft operated by Peninsula Airways. Those are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, Peninsula Vice President Brian Carricaburu told the Dispatch.

Carricaburu also says the runway could cut the government's costs in one way. Peninsula Airways routes to Akutan are now subsidized by about $700,000 annually under the federal Essential Air Service program. Using bigger, more efficient aircraft could bring that cost down, he told the Dispatch.

But to reach that point, it looks like a lot of figurative bridges have to be crossed.

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Filed under: Air travel • Alaska • Travel
soundoff (937 Responses)
  1. dave in Ohio

    How about we move everyone in this village into some foreclosed homes somewhere and just forget the whole thing? Assuming average households of 2.5 persons, that's 40 households. Give each of them a decent $100,000 home in Juneau or Anchorage and moving expenses of $10,000, that's all of $4,400,000 AND IT'S DONE! No continuing expenses, no hazardous sea crossings. Screw the fisheries. There are plenty more of them that would take the slack.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      Obviously Dave in Ohio, you are speaking from ignorance if you really believe that's all that is cared about.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • wakeups

      Wow, very Ohio of you. Not that i disagree on the fundamental economics, but as a country we do not embrace the forced evacuation of settlements, especially on U.S. soil. Should we demand that all the folks in washed out NE communities move instead of having their roads repaired? Or how about in the Outer Banks (look east Ohioan)? Or maybe New Orleans should be allowed to wash into the sea, it is pretty costly to defend it from hurricanes? God forbid your home or livelihood is ever on the chopping block in your version of America.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Newbdogg

      That worked out for the Indians right? I mean sure it killed 2/3's of them but they ended up with casino's.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • la

      omg hahaha – it is hilarious how many people don't know what sarcasm is. I love the internet...

      September 29, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • PM Ohio

      Yes, I live in Ohio too and I am tired of paying extra for my insurance and higher taxes because someone HAS to build on a cliff over an ocean or in the Mississippi flood plain...how many times is the Government responsible for rebuilding whole towns after floods, or because thier mansion was destroyed by a hurricane, when they could be built a few miles away and saved tax money and insurance that we all pay? I realize that natural disasters happen everywhere, but why do I have to pay for someone else's greed? If you build on the OB, you should not be covered by FEMA...the only thing built there is for making money off of tourists...$65M for a runway that vitually no one will use is crazy...Ohios schools are horrible. I wouldn't complain about pork if it actually was sent on something worthwhile.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bogus

    Gotta be a better way......

    September 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • wakeups


      September 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Wayne

    This is the Government at work. If Congress and the House can not waste money on unnecessary things, then they might have to work on things like passing a budget, fixing the economy, or just doing their jobs.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Noocrat

      "Congress and the House" is a little redundant, unless that's some new slang for the White House.

      Moreover, you get what you pay for. The Federal Government can't afford the best and the brightest, so you get subpar plans. Moreso in state governments, they can afford even less. This doesn't necessarily mean everyone, as a lot of people seem to have a calling to public service, but the vast majority of quality planners, engineers, etc. work in the private sector.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • PM Ohio

      Noocrat, you are an elitest ignorant know nothing. It is not that the people working in the Government aren't as bright as the private sector, it's the system that is set up to elect our Representatives that is the problem. Budgets and deals are made based on who gets you elected ($) these people and companies expect a payback after the election. I work for the DoD and some of the people I work with are some of the smartest people I know. Some of my friends who have made tons of money and are very successful are not the brightest bulbs...go figure.

      The USA needs to realize that the election is about money and control of the budget, not religion, abortion or anything else.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sounds like U.S.military contractors

    YEP: do you know your favorite .mil officers NAME? the one makes ALL things possible for new jobs.
    JOBS for people and positions for generals: caviar and bridges. No politician could ever compete with
    the worlds BIGGEST political force. Lets build some more hise rise luxury suites in Russia: who you gonna call?

    GENERAL contracting... always more "diverse" in every single day. It is not tax money.... nope

    IT IS GENERAL security services.... a growth industry as no other. Jobs for generals and "the people" for jobs.


    September 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. She.

    to conserve funds.. get them a new Amphibous aircraft to hold them over while they revamp plans eh?

    September 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. notasterisk

    When government provides subsidies to corporations, is that "socialism"?

    September 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • MM


      September 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • noseawl

      No. Only when the government owns the corporation. In this case it is a "subsidy" so that America can get their fish sticks.

      September 28, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tonyS

    Kill the project. It's simply not worth the money. The ROI is minimal, at best.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. She.


    September 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • She.

      Problem solved.. For less..

      In 2009 ICON stated that customer deliveries would begin in the third quarter of 2011, with an estimated base price of $139,000.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. NCKY

    Sounds like some ridiculous Palin idea since it is Alaska of course. All these Tea Party Palin supporters giving her anything her wants for her state no matter how big a waste it is.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      Everything and everyone in Alaska can not be associated with Palin, just like we are not all Eskimos and live in Igloos and have Polar bears and Penguins.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • jack

      Reading down through these comments I find yours to be the most ignorant. Not everyone is AK is a republican or a Palin lovers just as not everyone in Ohio is democrat or Obama lover.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • PM Ohio

      Jack, I have news for you. Ohio has been dominated by Republicans for decades. The idiot we have here now is a TeaBagger all the way. Appeared on Faux News over 100 times AFTER announcing he was running for office (on the Anti-Obama Ticket). In 2001, Kasich joined Lehman Brothers' investment banking division in Columbus as a managing director. He remained at the company until its bankruptcy filing and subsequent breakup in September 2008. For his work in 2007-2008, Lehman Brothers paid Kasich $182,692 for his 2008 salary, a $432,000 performance bonus for 2007, and $2,250 in other benefits, as Ohio seniors lost Billions in pension money because of the greed of companies like Lehman Bros.. We have had a couple of Democratic Governors over the past couple of decades, but because of Congressional Jerryrigging, our state is dropping down to the education standards of the Deep South. Thanks

      September 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Prohibition harms

    Sounds like the bridge Minnesota is building. There are no roads to it nor roads away from it. I afffectionally call it the bridge from nowhere to nowhere, it might be used if the roads are built. One side is a field and the otehr a field also.

    I wonder where the tea baggers are when you need them.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve J

      Maybe they just wanted to build the bridge before the roads to it. There's probably a road very close that it will tie into when they are done. I imagine that road engineers would love to have an unlimited budget and build everything up at once, but they can't. Give them credit for having a long term plan.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. She.

    Well if the Ideas's people refuse to use common sense.. then we are all doomed.. If you need a new airplane you should requsition one.. If your flight needs increase to the point that you think you need more airplanes and the costs would out weigh that of some other option then consider the other options.. but jeez.. get a new plane if you need one..

    September 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sounds like U.S.military contractors

    Maybe building trades are not your thing: no problem: something better than this !!!

    > first it was "Blackwater" then it was XE... then it was one hundred names and then it was nameless like Nevada shell companies that no one can ever untangle: Who is employed by all of that contracting? Must be truly difficult to ACCOUNT for all of that... 🙂

    September 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. joe

    i smell poop

    September 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • peri

      ignorance in the USA you ppl have no idea ......

      September 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Prohibition harms

    The bridge from nowhere to nowhere in Minnesota is an interchange and only costs 34 million so I guess we are getting a bargain.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bellabiv Devot

    Far cheaper than creating a real Voltron robot to carry folks accross the water.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • She.


      September 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
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